Trust

September Sundays end today, so it’s our good fortune to again publish Paul Curran’s weekly Cuppa column. Usual host Willow of willowdot21 has been leaving our Canadian friend’s way with words to us here, direct from Canada. On you go, Paul. Trust me, friends, this is a good one …

If We Were Having Coffee

How to Screw the Customers During Coffee Break

Paul Curran

Your Barista – Paul

Welcome to Willow’s weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today and I’m happy to be here once again. For the next few weeks Willow will not be able to access her internet dependably so we’ll be meeting here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the backyard. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B have prepared a nice, comfy place for us outside on the newly mown lawn of the Little Bitty, so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is warm at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit with a few clouds. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer – we have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger. We can relax with a cuppa and calorie-free electronic sweets while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been?

Paxil Withdrawal

My fellow blogger Victo Dolore over at Behind the White Coat did a post this week entitled “Trust Issues” (https://doctorly.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/trust-issues/ ) about prescribing anti-depressants, which unfortunately have some serious side effects. In the post she mentions that Paxil, one such drug produced by Glaxo, was review recently, and it was found that the original testing interpretation was flawed. That, in fact, the drug was ineffective and had a much higher risk of creating serious issues, including suicide, than was originally reported. There was a great deal of discussion in the comments about the trust issue with respect to drug manufacturers. It was generally agreed that drug manufacturers were suspect at the best of times.

Volkswagen in Disgrace

Then the following day I was reading the news and lo and behold there was the Volkswagen scandal. I couldn’t believe my eyes that the world’s second largest manufacturer of cars had produced 11 million vehicles that had defeat devices incorporated. Those are devices whose sole purpose is to give false low emissions readings during testing. It turns out that 11 million Volkswagens have been spewing up to 40 times the legal limit of some pollutants. Meanwhile, because of the installed defeat devices, they were all testing as if they were well within the legal limits. This was done deliberately to decrease cost and increase sales by giving higher fuel mileage. Apparently the whole organization at Volkswagen was in on this little deception perpetrated on all their customers. Unbelievable – but true.

Would you like a refill? Perhaps a sweet? Apparently this little problem was discovered by an American non-profit testing institute that was curious about the technology differences between European and American engines with respect to emissions. They got a grant of $50,000 to check out three cars – two of which were Volkswagens. They drove these vehicles about 4,000 miles around California and when they checked the data they found the third car had legal emissions and the Volkswagens were not even close. In fact, they were so far out they thought they had made an error in either the testing or the math. Turns out the results were correct – the Volkswagens were spewing emissions. They reported this to the EPA and the ball started rolling from there.

And The Headaches Have Just Begun

Sp far Volkswagen has lost 34 percent of its market cap in three days – over $25 billion of investor money just vaporized. And that is just the beginning. The American fines alone could be over $18 billion USD. And then there will be the cost of repairing the cars – which could top $10 billion dollars –if they can be fixed. The CEO has resigned and many Volkswagen officials have been suspended or fired.

Talk about trust issues. Of course as we stand on the sidelines and watch mighty companies falling one by one for cheating and deceiving the public and governments, one has to wonder just how many do things like this and get away with it? My guess is that many of them do. Having spent time with the Executive of a major Canadian retailer, I have seen this sort of thing happening behind the scenes. But the big surprise with Volkswagen was that they allowed 11 million vehicles out into the public domain where their deceit could be discovered at any time. They must have been hugely arrogant to think that no one would ever catch them. Volkswagen must have thought that the rest of the world was too stupid to ever catch them breaking the law. Blows me away. I’ve seen deceitful practices in business before, but I have never seen any company be so arrogant as to perpetrate the deceit on all their customers and think that no one was smart enough to catch them.

When I worked as a business analyst, I helped write a payment on receipt program for a major retailer. This allowed posting direct to the accounts payable ledger when a store received product – basically enterprise computing such that store receiving entries were processed as payable entries. This bypassed the need to process invoices and cut out a full department of 10 people in accounts payable and saved about $1 million per year, growing year after year. The program was very complex and I wrote the product spec (what the end user saw) and the programming logic. There were 12 programmers who wrote the code from that. The VP of Finance was the project lead and when we were grappling with how to handle purchase order shortages or short shipments he insisted that we do a credit to ourselves of the full price of the product, even though we were being charged much less than that with volume and other discounts. So we were paying, for instance, $3 for a scarf and if we were shorted, we credited ourselves $10. Basically that was cheating the vendor out of funds. Now there were sometimes fees levied for incomplete PO’s or wrong product – anything that would cost us money to fix or lose us sales. I was fine with that – business is business – but deliberately shorting the vendor on payment was unethical in my mind. I objected to this and was told to keep my mouth shut – if the vendor wanted to dispute a payment they were free to do so and corrections would be made at that time. Meanwhile, we deliberately wrote a computer program that was designed to short pay suppliers by thousands of dollars per year.

This experience was with a company that I considered moral and ethical in all its dealings. They treated employees well, paid well, had an excellent bonus structure, an excellent benefit package, good management, etc. And when they thought they wouldn’t get caught, they had no scruples about cheating. They were super sensitive about their image and would not cheat if they thought they would get caught – but if they thought they would get away with it, they had no hesitation in cheating and acting unethically.

That’s about all we have room for this week, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week. We look forward to seeing you for tea and drinks here for the rest of the month of September.

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24 thoughts on “Trust

    • You are a treasured guest here, Paul.

      This week’s column tells us so much about big business minds. If you can, you do. Yes, that’s an exciting prospect for innovation and exploration and people policies within and outside organizations. But what an awful concept when it crosses over into the ethics side of any company.

      Have a great week, my friend, enjoying the trusts you’ve carefully built here and in real life.

      See you here for next week’s Cuppa, too, unless Willow calls you back home, that is.

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    • Hi Beth! Thanks for dropping by for a visit. Indeed, trust is difficult to repair. Volkswagen has announced that they are crafting a response to regain the trust of their customers – like they can obviously think us all idiots and then say with straight face that they want our trust back. They have been duping us for many years now and pocketing our cash, and now that they are caught, they want us to trust them. That’s not going to happen for me, anyway.

      Thanks for the comment Beth – have a great week!

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    • I tend to agree Willow, but I know what will happen – I’ve seen it done before. They’ll drop their prices and offer better financing terms and free upgrades and maybe even a cup of coffee in the show room and people will buy their cars again. This is going to cost them dearly in profits for a few years but they will gain it back. That said, I, for one, will never trust them again. Volkswagen didn’t just make a mistake – they deliberately lied to all of us while polluting our air so they could fill their pockets with money. That is arrogant, despicable behaviour perpetrated over years by the majority of the company. They thumbed their noses at us while harming our environment. F*ck them – they will not get my forgiveness – ever.

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  1. Pingback: IF WE WERE HAVING COFFEE : Still moving on! | willowdot21

  2. Paul, I have mistrust about corporations and fundraising. Both have been caught in scandals over the years. Your coffee and sweets are appreciated and thanks for VW story and your own personal experience where vendors were not getting proper amounts. 😦 Smiles to Paul and Mark from a scattered Robin 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Would you like a refill of your coffee? Perhaps some more sweets – remember all our sweets are calorie free! Thanks so much for dropping by Robin, it is pleasure to have you here. Yes, Big companies are getting less and less trustworthy. I wish there was an easy way to determine if they could be trusted but there isn’t. Thanks again for the comment and read Robin – please come by again. 🙂

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  3. Trust. Easy to loose, hard to regain. Been there, done that.

    Volkswagen deserve what’s coming to them, but I can understand why big business doesn’t always want to be completely honest. Take, for example Fonterra, our largest exporter, and which handles a quarter of the world’s dairy market. Last year (or was it the year before?) one of their regular tests indicated some milk powder was possibly contaminated. As much of the product had been exported, immediate notifications were issued. This resulted in in several countries completely banning all milk powder products from NZ, and some countries destroying all stocks. Further testing revealed that in fact the product was not contaminated, and the initial result was erroneous. But the damage had been done, and the ban in some countries remained for months afterward, and it cost the jobs of several in senior management as a result. The company was severely criticised by many business analysts and the government which called the the whole thing a fiasco. Personally I think Fonterra did the right thing. But apparently the false alarm resulted in a loss of trust by importers and governments all over the world. Imagine what would have happened if they had delayed reporting a possible contamination and it turned out that that the contamination was real. Can’t win either way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you Barry. I agree with you -in the case of Fonterra they did the right thing. There was a peanut issue recently in the US where reporting was delayed and many people died. Thanks so much for dropping by and joining the discussion Barry. I am honored that you came for a visit, Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Help yourself Colleen, there is lots. You know I hate distrusting companies but it appears as if there is no choice. Thanks so much for dropping by with a comment – I am honored.

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  4. Well, that was sobering. What’s up with Williow’s internet? Have you provided an explanation for that?

    Anti-depressants can increase the likelihood of suicide? Is that what you’re telling me? How do the scientists and executives who know these facts allow it on the market, anyway? How do they sleep at night? See how powerful money is? See what it can do to people?

    How did the flaw in the VW’s come to light, anyway? Did some smarty-pants scientist finally fess-up? Or was it discovered independently?

    Yeah, I need a refill. I’d ask for a refill of Paxil if I thought it’d work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Mark! How’s your Monday morning going? Willow has actually asked me to not explain her internet challenges but if you read her blog (like this week’s If we were having coffee piece) it becomes obvious.

      Yep, you are right, money corrupts without a doubt. And yes, many anti-depressants increase suicide – not sure how that works but they do and in fact if you have ever seen any prescription anti-depressants advertised on TV, they mention that. It turned out that Paxil, which sold over $1 billion per year for many years, was actually ineffective and increased side effects far more than was acceptable or was reported.

      The Volkswagen thing was mind blowing – that they should be so arrogant. It was a small American non-profit who were investigating a totally unrelated issue – comparing US and European specs – who discovered the deception.They reported it to the Feds. So many at Volkswagen knew the scheme and were having a good laugh at the money they were pocketing from the deception. And they had done it for years – the arrogant bastards. They say they are working to regain customer tryst – they will never get my trust back.

      Thanks so much for dropping by Mark, I hope your week goes well. Don’t get rich cause we would hate to see you turn into a prick. ha!

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  5. Gosh, I didn’t know all that about Volkswagen. I just don’t get it. How can you do something wrong and live with yourself? I would feel terrible if I left a paper towel on a public bathroom floor or if I moved into a lane without signalling. I cannot fathom that level of dishonesty. I have noticed over the past couple of years how often I get overcharged at the grocery store and have to play close attention to the prices ringing up. About half the time, I have to point out an overcharge. And eating out, kids’ drinks usually come with the kid meals. But 9/10 times, the waitresses charge for the drink, then hope you don’t notice on the check. I always notice. She has to get the manager, give a fake apology, then take extra time to take it off the check. It seems like the norm to screw the customer these days. You really have to be on your game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kerbey! Thanks so much for dropping by and joining the conversation. I too find that more and more often shops and services will overcharge me if I don’t pay close attention. Also they will advertise one price/service and provide a lesser for a higher charge. I’m like you Kerbey, in that I couldn’t deliberately overcharge someone or give them ;less than what they had agreed to.

      Thanks again for the visit Kerbey. I hope your week goes well.

      Liked by 1 person

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